About us

CPAW works with communities to reduce wildfire risks through improved land use planning, compelling communication, and applied research.

The interdisciplinary CPAW team draws in various experts depending on the wildfire risks and needs faced by the community. Read more about what we do and where we work.

CPAW is a program of Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. Established in 2015, CPAW is funded by the U.S. Forest Service and private foundations.

Our vision

We envision communities better adapted to living with the inevitability of wildfires by integrating wildfire risk-reduction measures into design and development to minimize costs, protect structures, and save lives. In our vision, wildfire is part of the landscape but no lives are lost or homes destroyed. Incentives for development and design standards, building codes, subdivision regulations, strategic fuel breaks, and other planning tools are successfully applied. As a result of good planning and anticipating a wildfire before it occurs, costs and impacts are minimized, suppression efforts are redirected toward targeted structure protection, wildfire is restored in ecologically appropriate ways, and communities are able to thrive with wildfire on the landscape.

The Problem

Land in wildfire-prone areas continues to be developed.

Climate change and decades of accumulated fuels exacerbate extreme wildfire conditions.

More money is spent on protecting homes, lives, and property from wildfires.

The burden on state and federal budgets increases.

Firefighters’ lives are endangered.

The Solution

Land use planning increases the safety and value of homes and businesses.

Homeowners understand risks and work together to protect neighborhoods and businesses.

State and federal governments intentionally invest in communities to better prepare for increasing wildfire risk.

New construction incorporates wildfire-resistant materials and designs.

Older homes are retrofitted to improve wildfire resistance.

The Result

Safer development reduces wildfire risk.

Insurance rates are affordable.

The city/county tax base is protected.

No firefighting injuries or deaths result from defending homes.

Government agencies spend less on firefighting and more on forest health and long-term community resilience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CPAW?

The Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program works with communities across the United States to reduce wildfire risk through improved land use planning, compelling communication, and applied research. CPAW collaborates with communities to develop site-specific recommendations. All services provided through CPAW are grant-funded and come at no cost to the community. Communities are selected through a competitive grant process and generally receive assistance over the course of one year. Participation in the program is voluntary and must be requested by local governments.

Why was CPAW created?

Wildfires are growing in size and frequency, causing more damage to communities. Protecting homes and other community assets threatened by wildfires depletes federal agency budgets and increasingly places firefighters’ and residents’ lives in danger. Improved land use planning can help reduce wildfire risks and costs.

In response, Headwaters Economics and Wildfire Planning International created the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program in 2015. Drawing off principles outlined in the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, CPAW helps communities become more fire adapted through improved land use planning.

Who funds CPAW?

CPAW is funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and private foundations.

Who manages CPAW?

CPAW is a program of Headwaters Economics. It is funded by the U.S. Forest Service and private foundations.

What communities are participating?

Dozens of communities from across the United States have participated in CPAW since the pilot project in 2015. Communities range in size and scale from rural counties, to mid-sized cities, to urban areas. Read more about CPAW communities.

For Applicants and New Communities

How do I apply?

Applications are reviewed and accepted over the course of the year. Eligible applicants must demonstrate high wildfire risk, strong stakeholder engagement at the community level, a collaborative relationship between the land use planning and fire department, and opportunities for land use planning to benefit community wildfire risk reduction efforts. For more information, please contact us.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Any incorporated community in the U.S. can apply, including towns, cities, counties or tribes. The applicant must have authority over local land use and zoning decisions. To be eligible, the community must demonstrate support from both the community’s planning and fire departments. Communities must also demonstrate commitment and capacity to support the CPAW process. HOAs, subdivisions, or other neighborhood organizations interested in the program are encouraged to contact their local planning department to pursue a community application submission.

If selected for CPAW, what is required of my community?

Once selected, communities sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the CPAW program. Communities are expected to contribute staff time, but all other expenses are covered by CPAW. Communities will commit to hosting site visits, providing planning documents, helping convene stakeholders, and participating in CPAW forums. At the end of the CPAW process, implementation of recommendations is voluntary and under the authority of the local jurisdiction.

What does my community receive from CPAW?

CPAW will work directly with your community to determine your specific needs. Communities receive assistance for a minimum of one year. Assistance can include detailed recommendations of planning documents, capacity training opportunities, customized research and communication tools.

Who are the stakeholders we should include from our community?

We suggest including diverse and broad stakeholders during the CPAW process. The primary stakeholders will include planning departments, fire departments, fuels specialists, emergency services, public works, and public land management agencies (state, USFS, BLM, etc.). Additional stakeholders might include open space, park and recreation professionals; developers; real estate professionals; neighborhoods, property and homeowner’s associations; and non-profit partners such as land trusts and watershed groups.